Exploring associations between multimorbidity, frailty and lifestyle

Qualification: PhD

Department: Health Sciences

Application deadline: 31 March 2021

Start date: 1 May 2021



Dr Francesco Zaccardi and Professor Kamlesh Khunti

Project description

Multimorbidity and frailty affect an increasing number of the population and are leading causes of hospitalisation and health care utilisation. Given medication usage is already high in these populations, non-pharmaceutical interventions are required. In order to inform such interventions, we need a better understanding of which patterns of lifestyle behaviours are optimally associated with maintaining good physical function (ability to move around independently) and reduced premature death in populations with and without multimorbidity. 

This PhD project will undertake a series of epidemiological analysis on datasets available nationally, such as UK Biobank and the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD), and regionally using data collected through the Diabetes Research Centre, University of Leicester, or through local authority data capture systems. The post holder will work to identify key patterns of lifestyle behaviours (sleep, physical activity, diet, alcohol consumption, smoking) and related factors, such body composition, that are associated with a reduced risk of frailty and that maximise life expectancy in those with and without multimorbidity. The student will be embedded within a team of experts in lifestyle related epidemiology and receive training in a broad range of statistical methods used to investigate survival, along with approaches to collate and process lifestyle data.

The PhD project will be integrated into a vibrant postgraduate research community within the Diabetes Research Centre and Real World Evidence Unit, University of Leicester and help advance the aims of the National Institute of Health Research Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (BRU) and East Midlands Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC).


  • Zaccardi et al. Comparative relevance of physical fitness and adiposity on life expectancy: A UK Biobank observational study. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2019 in press
  • Zemedikun DT, et al. Patterns of Multimorbidity in Middle-Aged and Older Adults: An Analysis of the UK Biobank Data. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2018;93:857-866
  • Yates et al. Association of walking pace and handgrip strength with all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality: a UK Biobank observational study. Eur Heart J 2017, 38, 3232-3240
  • Bakrania et al. Associations between sedentary behaviours and cognitive function: cross-sectional and prospective findings from the UK Biobank. Am J Epidemiol. 2018;187:441-454



This 3-year PhD studentship provides:

  • UK/EU tuition fee waiver
  • Annual Stipend at UKRI rates

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

UK Bachelor Degree with at least 2:1 in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent.

University of Leicester English language requirements apply (where applicable).

Informal enquiries

Informal enquiries

Project enquiries

Application enquiries

How to apply

How to apply

To apply, please use the 'Apply' button at the bottom of the page.  Select May 2021 entry

Within the application form, please:

Please specify that you wish to be considered for Zaccardi CLS studentship

In the proposal section please provide the name of the supervisors and project title (a proposal is not required)

With the application, please include:

  • CV
  • Personal statement explaining your interest in the project, your experience and why we should consider you
  • Degree Certificates and Transcripts of study already completed and if possible transcript to date of study currently being undertaken
  • Evidence of English language proficiency if applicable
  • In the reference section please enter the contact details of your two academic referees in the boxes provided or upload letters of reference if already available.



UK/EU applicants only.